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Marines with different skills come together for convoy operations in Iraq

15 Mar 2006 | Sgt. Enrique S. Diaz

Most businesses have no need for policemen and radio technicians to get the same job done. Nor would one expect to see a gunsmith's work compliment a truck driver's long journey.

In the Marine Corps, cooperation among various job fields like these is crucial to keeping Marines on the frontlines supplied.

Every day in Iraq, the 1st Marine Logistics Group sends out combat logistics patrols that leave the relative safety of the base to deliver supplies to Marines throughout the Al Anbar Province.

From the Marines who order and load the supplies onto 7-ton transportation trucks, to the mechanic that keeps the trucks running - many people play a key role to keep the supply train moving.

One such group of Marines is the storage operations personnel assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 15 here. These Marines maintain an inventory in excess of $94,000,000 containing provisions like food and water, to more specialized items like construction materials, repair parts and engine oil.

For Cpl. Sergio A. Luna, shipping noncommissioned officer in charge for the storage operations section, the mission requires him and his Marines to work with the utmost attention to detail to support anywhere from 400 to 1,200 individual requests for equipment daily.

We never know if a fellow Marine is waiting for a certain piece of gear and if we don't give him what he needs, he might die out there, said the 22-year-old Brownsville, Texas native.

After the supplies are loaded, truck drivers like Sgt. Mike A. Guglielmo, transport the goods, collectively driving hundreds of miles on the dangerous roads of western Iraq, where insurgents often use improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, against Coalition Forces.

The motor transport operators travel cautiously, constantly watching out for attacks from IEDs.

Marines out on the frontlines can't get the food, water, ammo or other necessities to carry out their missions without truck drivers convoying in Iraq, sometimes twice a day, to support them, said Guglielmo, a Clearwater, Fla. native.

Fortunately, the drivers are not alone in their daily treks across the province.

Providing security for the Marine truck drivers are military policemen like Lance Cpl. Nicholas T. Fenezia, who ride with the convoys.

Fenezia, a 21-year-old fire team leader with Company A, 2nd Military Police Battalion, and other MPs, are the first line of defense for the truck drivers.

"Vehicles that have ridden in my patrol or convoy have never been hit; I either find the IEDs or they find me, but it's always me, I've never let another vehicle get struck by an IED," said Fenezia, a Red Bank, N.J. native.

It's a dangerous job Fenezia is proud to say he has never failed...but it has brought him close to death on more than one occasion.

Fenezia is diligent in his mission and has already discovered nine of the roadside bombs, but his vehicle has been hit twice.

The first attack, which occurred last October, was minor and the vehicle was towed back to base. No one was hurt. The second blast in January significantly damaged the vehicle, but amazingly once again, everyone was fine, said Fenezia.

In both instances, Fenezia was able to radio the rest of the convoy and get help.

The ability to communicate remotely is a necessary tool for the Marines and can mean the difference between life and death.

Often overlooked, communication is vital to the drivers who use radios to call in support ranging from an immediate medical evacuation to reinforcements against enemy forces, said Cpl. Richard G. Guerrero, a 26-year-old Los Angeles native.

Electronics specialists like Guerrero, a communication technician with the Electronics Maintenance Platoon, CLR 15, keep the radios operating so the Marines on the road have this lifeline available.

The roads of Iraq are harsh and cause wear and tear to the vehicles with every mission.

With numerous convoys leaving the base here everyday, the vehicles must be maintained regularly to keep them in working order.

Diesel mechanics perform preventive maintenance to keep the trucks operating smoothly on the road and repair vehicles that break from continuous operations.

"You can have all the drivers in the world, but if your equipment doesn't operate properly the mission won't be accomplished," said Cpl. George W. Gonzales, a 21-year-old San Jose, Calif. native.

At the core of convoy operations are the individual Marines and the tools that they depend on for survival - their weapons.

Similar to civilian gunsmiths, armorers maintain a unit's assortment of weapons ranging from the M16, the basic rifle used by all Marines, to the MK19, a fully automatic grenade launcher.

Armorers also repair weapons that would otherwise be 'deadlined' - inoperable guns that could keep a convoy from going 'outside the wire' or worse, not work if the convoy is attacked.

It's not uncommon for armorers to work around the clock to ensure weapons are ready for convoys, said Cpl. Leon Orndoff, one of a handful of armorers here and 23-year-old Fresno, Calif. native.

Jobs performed by Marines like Orndoff are often overlooked but this doesn't make them any less important.

Whether they need food, water, bullets or plywood, the war fighters at the furthest outposts in Iraq rely on this network of combat support specialists within the 1st MLG to keep them alive everyday.
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1st Marine Logistics Group